Launching in 2007, Fitbit quickly became one of the breakout pieces of mainstream exercise equipment. The physical aspect of Fitbit devices appeared as simple wristbands, with monitors to measure pulse and Bluetooth functionality to interface with other systems. Developing in both popularity and complexity over the years, Fitbit was eventually acquired by Google in 2021.
Google, as its reputation suggests, made some major changes to the functionality of Fitbit systems, upsetting many longtime users in the process. Killing off functionalities like this has become common in the software space, and it’s a problem affecting much of the industry that can prove difficult to address.
Google’s Legacy and Changes
As one of the world’s foremost tech giants, Google is constantly acquiring new businesses and products. Sometimes these purchases are to add well-performing systems into their repertoire, while other times acquisitions are built around shutting down the competition.
In both approaches, however, Google has earned a long legacy of shutting down services or components of services that many users love. So profound and predictable has this pattern become that websites have appeared to track the tech victims that Google has killed.
Fitbit users were wondering how the looming specter of Google’s scythe would eventually materialize, and while it has left base Fitbit systems intact, other components have been culled. Most importantly and recently, it’s the social elements of Fitbit that have been sacrificed to Google’s gods of profit.
The core component of Fitbit, its capacity as a pedometer, still works, but this has never been the cornerstone of the tech. Pedometers are cheap and easy to produce, and strapping one to a wristband is a basic idea that never would have taken off were it not for Fitbit’s Bluetooth systems and software support.
Fitbit always excelled in its social features, which raised the device from a simple tool to a more expansive and open system for friends, family, and strangers to cooperate and compete.
Social features within Fitbit are built on the idea of gamification. This is when systems add gaming elements to non-game activities, like when a website lets you level up and gain rewards through normal reading activities.
In Fitbit, gamification was best expressed through its compatibility with social functionality. With “Challenges” and “Adventures”, and a simple comparison of daily step counts, Fitbit users could get far more out of their systems.
Google’s attack on Fitbit doesn’t start there either, as the company is hot off killing Fitbit’s ability to sync with Mac and PC systems. This makes it impossible to load music onto Fitbits, where their small size and low weight gave them an appreciable advantage over exercising with a phone. These features are what made Fitbit special, and they’re what Google has seen fit to deprive its formerly dedicated user base.
Solutions and Safeguards
The best way to avoid problems as demonstrated by Fitbit is to plan and take steps to safeguard your user experience. The same can be said for any online service or product, and this proactive approach is often simple if you start earlier.
There are two related primary options a user can turn to when it comes to protecting themselves against future service failure; software diversification, and hardware open-source acceptance. Software diversification is when you leave yourself open to a variety of different systems. Sometimes it can be possible to maintain accounts through these different systems, while other times that won’t be possible.
A popular example of the software diversification approach is demonstrated by the online sports betting industry. Consider the range of NZ sports betting sites in 2023. These services like BetVictor and 20Bet all share many of the same opportunities, so even on the rare occasion (they’re not run by Google) that one shuts down, the sheer range of options makes this a non-issue.
Factor in welcome bonuses, and in this instance, there can even be advantages of voluntarily checking out different software.
Facilitating the ability to switch between different software platforms and services is where hardware with open-source support comes in. In simple terms, this is where hardware isn’t locked into one online ecosystem. If two systems are inextricable, as is the case with so much Fitbit hardware and software, then software decline inevitably means hardware decline.
With more open hardware platforms, it’s easy to move between services. Even better, the systems built with open source in mind are often ones that emphasize software cooperation. Though it’s unlikely that all data from one service on an open device can be utilized by another, there are still cases where you can import large quantities without issue.
This is the case for the fitness apps native on many mobile devices, and with more open smartwatches or recent fitness wristbands, it can also be the case. In other words, plan for obsolescence, and you’ll never be obsolete.
As for what comes next for Fitbit and Google’s changes, that’s difficult to predict. While Google may be shutting down Fitbit’s systems to replace them with its own, they haven’t yet clarified any intentions. Even if this was Google’s intent, deactivating long-popular components without stating replacement plans has already left a bad taste in users’ mouths.
Combined with the poor reputation Google has already crafted via its long history of hardware and software shutdown, it’s no wonder many users are finding it difficult to be optimistic about Fitbit’s future.
Is it possible to convert my data from Fitbit to another platform like Garmin?
Damn straight. Google kept us up with the discontinuation of those services but did nothing to share what they were doing to make up for it. I’ve been an avid Fitbit user since 2015, but I’m absolutely done with them now. Too many devices have broken on me, but far too many features are gone now. I’m so tired of Google killing features.
AMEN, I lost the capacity to check in and encourage exercise activities with my relatives.
We siblings could check on each other’s most basic welfare (are they walking today?) through the Fitbit app. Two of the five live in isolation. We are more upset at Google than you can imagine!
I have had a fitbit for years, my family has all bought fitbits. They were given as gifts for birthday gifts this past year.. Literally 100`s of dollars were spent . It was a trusted product that enhanced our health, and gave friendly competition. Why are you taking it away? You are killing it all for the good of Google. Couldn’t you have married fitbit into the Google system? Alot of us who own fitbit do not want your Google product because this has left a bad taste. Why would we want to give you money for a new fitness product when you did not care about our pocket books. Sorry but not sorry I don’t want your fitness trackers.
That’s why I’ve switched away from Fitbit to a different, albeit a bit more expensive fitness tracker brand.
Plus Fitbit has time zone issues that cause many of their applications not to preform correctly, such as the sleeping and the oxygen sensor, the oxygen sensor is reading whilst you are awake not asleep due to the time zone issues. The time zones are like 12 hours out, when it’s pm it says am, and this is easily found when you turn on the excercise zones. It’s a known issue and with the cost of their premim it is simply not good enough now I have a Garmin and took the sense 2 back just over a week ago, even the latest updates to their app has not solved the issue
Please remove my email address from the website before publishing my last comment
I have to wonder with what Google is doing to Fitbit that they are causing issues with the time zones, even a Fitbit community forum moderator thought that the latest update would of fixed this major issue, which it did not, so these smart watches are 12 hours out, and you find this when you go into excercise mode, for example in Australia , it is out by 12 hours when it is pm, it shows up as am, this issue is affecting sleep monitoring and the oxygen sensor apps, the oxygen sensor is meant to do the readings whilst you are asleep not whilst you are awake and excerciing
“This makes it impossible to load music onto Fitbits”
No it doesn’t. It only does if you are so lost in the apple ecosystem, that you use nothing but apple products.
I have been a fitbit user for many years. I had weekly challenges with friends and family that would keep me motivated to walk. It’s disappointing that Google would kill this feature. I know I will steer clear of Goigle products going forward. And don’t worry Google, there are other apps out there that allow us to continue our challenges!
Google owes Fitbit owners a refund. It’s one thing to halt development on a product but quite another to intentionally cripple devices customers bought in good faith. No wonder so many Android customers are moving to Apple.
This is BS!Google should not be able to do this!
Is premium free on inspire 2
The main reason I use my Fitbit (and why I have upgraded several times for many years) is the Challenges. Peer pressure is a great motivator. Without the challenges, I can go back to an Inxpensive Timex watch . As far as steps my cellphone can track them.
I am very disappointed and angry that google has made this change!
Has Google shutdown the weather
I had really enjoyed the community and interaction of Fitbit. The challenges and friends I was making was absolutely the reason for staying. Currently wearing my Fitbit 5, which I had just recently talked my husband into since he found out he had Diabetes and heart issues. Like.me the walking and steps help us both. The friendships are a huge plus. We have had people come and meet up – retired they’re retired and new friendships around the country and world are fun to explore. We have family everywhere. Google has now removed that! Disappointed deeply in this move.
Thought much better of Google and seriously right now listening to our grandkids – thinking of switching to Apple products who don’t do this. Once we start a product there won’t be tons of surprises and disappointments. Maybe our GenZ family knows more than we do at 66. When it comes to stuff like this. Heck with our android who do we go to for help but GenZ 🥰
Google wants Fitbit to function bring back challenges or loose many who would rather toss these Fitbits for Apple products when they quit anyway than keep replacing something that lost it’s zest that kept us coming back day after day. #FitbitDevelopers we miss you – not the headaches or warranty issues but the fun you gave us all!
#Google you came you ruined our party – took the fun out! Not a way to keep people or make friends or make money.
Many of us use Google your making us all look elsewhere now because we don’t trust you!
Thank you for listening
Fit bit used to be a good system… until Google took over. Many users will be leaving with this massive disruption in services.
Thanks. My Fitbit is a mess of unrealized promises and improbable data, especially my sleep logs. Youve just explained why.
Byebye Fitbit, dumpster bound like Facebook B4 it. Now to see if they honor the 3yr “Premium” NQA warranty!
Now using a Galaxy 5. SPO2 sensor that works. Clean apps. A few bugs. But amazing features that are useful and work.
I have a FitBit Luxe and I’m going to switch to a Galaxy watch soon. The community part of the app was one of the best features. Thanks Google, you just made my FitBit obsolete and useless to me.
Very well written. I am on my third Fitbit once this one stop working I will not be buying another one; A pledge the entire family has made. My immediate and extended family all has Fitbit solely for the challenges. My sister gave away her Apple Watch so she could do challenges. We have met several people We didn’t even know on Fitbit that has been doing challenges with us for years; that connection has been severed. We no longer have a need for Fitbit. Any watch can count steps; a basic cell phone app can as well. Unfortunately they ruined the best part of Fitbit. That’s like Facebook saying you can’t have friends.
This action has been extremely frustrating. I have been loyal to Fitbit since 2014 with my first device. I invited family to be involved and gained many friends through the challenges. I felt motivated and my fitness improved. I paid for Premium service. Then bam the challenges are taken away, now individual fitness by video???Friends moved to a new platform, bailing out of a sinking ship. Google has lost my trust.
Fitbit sense is a disappointment. I purchased it after recall. My mistake for not purchasing another watch I am 77 and have used Fitbit for several years and models.
What an interesting article 👏 I now understand why I did not upgrade my Fitbit Sense! The new version had less functionalities. Even though I didn’t use those functionalities, I bought the product it had those functionalities [just in case I wanted to use the functionalities in the future]. Thx for the article. Now I know!
This was why I decided to step away from Fibit for good. I decided to get an Picel 7 Pro and a Pixel watch, hoping Google would enhance the product even more. The social aspects are what made fitbit for me. I loved the Bingo games and the challenges. Without them, I’d rather go back to Samsung products. Samsung phones and watches are just better.
Google have already dumped deezer and Spotify so music on Fitbit gone. Couldn’t previously use tracker for short responses on iPhone (that was apple’s protection of their watch product) so this is the last straw will switch to another brand when tracker dies and IT WILL NOT BE GOOGLE
What an absolutely confusing read. Get to the damn point. So much nonsense and reiterated words and phrases. Even redundant paragraphs explaining the meaning of a word previously used that a reader would simply glance over.
With Google removing the challenges and adventures it’s just a boring watch. I will not be getting a new Fitbit or Google watch because of this. Stop taking away all the fun things.
I’m convinced – I’m not buying one!
I love my Fitbit, I am an IPhone user and I can’t believe Google is doing this to the Fitbit world. Why buy such a great company to change everything that people love about it. They ruining a great company I loved all the challenges on my Fitbit. I was going to upgrade until I read what Google is doing to this company. I will be buying an iPhone watch.
Given the fact that Google devices are more expensive, I will be looking for a device that has Fitbit functionality and be open sourced. I will miss my Fitbit as it was key to my recovery from a stroke, By tracking my vitals as I lost weight, it also was critical to tracking my oxygen saturation. The fact that Google honors the dollar over loyalty, is sad. I won’t support it because of that.
This article explains a lot! I use to have a Versa 2. The PC connectivity was great. I could load my own audio mp3 files and leave my phone home. So I upgraded to a Versa 3 which has GPS functionality expecting the best of both worlds! Alas, that functionality to load your own mp3 was discontinued. Now, to load music you have to have a paid subscription to Pandora or Spotify.
I’ve enjoyed Fitbit for many many years. I’ve purchased or had replacements about 9 times. This Fitbit Sense will be my last Fitbit watch. It was a good run but it’s time for this consumer to move on . Google killed the joy of the challenges and having people all over the world encouraging one another. I’m really going to miss those faces and names.
Yes! Literally the only reason I went with a fitbit is because of the challenges and social component. Now I cant seem to put music on there. Seems like it was a waste for me to get a fitbit. I should get my money back for it!
What fitness bands will provide oxygen saturation at we sleep? My O2Ring does it … Lines up O2 and heart rate beautifully. Oxygen variability is off little help.
I don’t care about all the other nonsense in this article. If it killed off some major functionality, just say what it is. Nobody wants to read about the history and all that! Who has time for that!
What Google did totally sucks and I wrote to them to tell them that. The written response that I received was the same corporate mumble-jumble they sent out in their email to the Fitbit user community. No one would talk to me. I am exploring leaving my Fitbit for another device.
Wow, thanks for wasting my time with a useless article.
I am definately trading in my fitbit..that I have LOVED FOR MANY YEARS, and bought MANY as gifts for something else..without the challenges, its just a watch.
Exactly right. I’ve had my Fitbit Luxe for 2 yrs now, and until recently really loved everything about it. But with the Challenges and open groups gone, I can say for sure that when my Luxe stops working, I won’t buy another Fitbit – and I also definitely won’t buy anything from Google! I’ll probably buy a Samsung smart watch.
The only reason I bought another fitbit was for challenges with my family. Looks like I’m done with fitbit once this one breaks. Thanks Google for ruining everything like normal.
Just buy a Garmin and be done with it.
After my Fitbit Ioniq got recalled I moved to Garmin and I am pretty satisfied with the choice.
Awful what they did. Only a few weeks and we miss our competitions and badges. We had to go to a different app to even continue. I have Google home in my house and thought they would integrate simular features they took away. If not they should have left the features alone. I was a fitbit and Google lover. I hate Google for what they did to My fitbit. They took the best features away.
I am on my second fitbit and neither one work. I got a replacement and I can’t even turn it on. I was so excited to get this through my insurance company and It’s caused so much aggravation. I attempted the troubleshooting with a representative and it still didn’t work. I was looking forward to the exercise and sleep feature. I haven’t been diagnosed and really wanted that feature
I have a Fitbit for years so I bought my Mom one. And then my Dad wore my Moms old Fitbit Charge ,who is now almost 86 years old! He doesn’t own a cell phone. I used the toggle and connected it to my computer (Windows). It worked great until around December, 2022 or maybe February, 2023. And then stopped showing his steps (which he gets over 9000 a day plus) and badges. He would watch for them. It finally broke or actually he lost it as he works in the yard, garden and farm life. (Really it lasted through 3 adult’s) the Charge was outstanding! I bought him a Fitbit Inspire 3. I thought there had to be some way to connect without a cell phone! Nope! So I have to sign out of my fitbit app and syn his with his account. I not sure if this is going to work and it’s a pain to do. Google, I’ve been a long time supporter of your service’s! But Not Any more!
No big deal here. It never offered the apps I needed anyway. The social thing is nothing to me. If they can make the GPS work properly and accurately, and give me apps for my sports and activities, I’ll stay. If not I’ll go. They are all collecting our data anyway.